Congress at Work for January 2017

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Congress at Work: Taking Small Steps to Reduce Lawsuits, Government Waste, Travel Hassles and Unfair Taxes

American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084) – This bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 16 and went to the President for signature. Introduced in June 2016 by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), this Act is designed to promote diversity in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. The legislation authorizes incentives for improving private sector innovation and advanced manufacturing through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a public-private partnership to support small and medium-sized manufacturers. The bipartisan bill seeks to maximize federal investments in basic science research, strengthen STEM education programs to build a skilled workforce and support services that make small and medium-sized manufacturers more competitive on the global landscape.

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (H.R. 6477) – This bill protects works of art on loan to the United States from foreign institutions from seizure or lawsuits due to the property being taken in violation of federal law. The legislation is meant to promote cultural understanding and permit Americans to view works of art to which they might not otherwise have access. The bill contains some exclusions, including objects that were looted by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. The bill was introduced in early December by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), passed by both houses within two days and was signed by the President on Dec. 16.

Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016 (H.R. 6450) – Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), this bill was introduced in early December and enacted less than one week later. The bill strengthens the authority of the more than 70 Inspectors General across the federal government by allowing them full and prompt access to agency records for timely independent audits, reviews and investigations. The goal is to provide greater government transparency by helping to uncover wasteful spending and potential government misconduct.

Federal Property Management Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 6451) – This legislation authorizes the development of a federal real property database in order to identify and redevelop or sell properties owned but unused by the federal government. It is designed to shrink the federal footprint by disposing of underutilized federal buildings in order to save taxpayer dollars. The bill was first introduced in December by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and signed into law by the President one week later.

Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016 (H.R. 6431) – Introduced in December by Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH), this bill authorizes a pre-clearance procedure for Amtrak passengers traveling to Canada, eliminating the need for trains to stop at the border. This and other shared border clearance functions are designed to aid tourism and promote commerce. The legislation was signed into law by the President on Dec. 16.

Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 (H.R. 5015) – This legislation authorizes the end of unintended taxation by the Defense Department of some severance payments to combat-injured veterans due to the limitations of the department’s automated payment system. The bill directs the DOD to determine the amounts previously withheld for taxes and enable affected veterans to recover their respective amounts. Introduced in April 2016 by Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), this bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 10 and was signed into law by the President on Dec. 16.

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